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Instagram Pauses Changes Amid Criticism It's Becoming Too Much Like TikTok

The social media platform said it will stop testing a full-screen feed and look at other options.

Instagram app logo on a phone
Instagram's latest changes has been frustrating its users.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Instagram said Thursday it's pausing some of the changes it's been testing on the app after users criticized the platform for becoming too much like short-form video app TikTok.

The platform, which is owned by Facebook parent company Meta, said it will stop testing a new full-screen feed to explore other options but didn't specify what the alternatives are. Instagram will also temporarily decrease the number of recommendations users see in their feed.

"We recognize that changes to the app can be an adjustment, and while we believe that Instagram needs to evolve as the world changes, we want to take the time to make sure we get this right," said Meta spokesperson Christine Pai in a statement. 

The pause shows how Instagram is responding to user backlash as it tries to keep up with short-form video TikTok. That criticism reached new heights on Monday when celebrities Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner shared a meme urging the company to stop trying to imitate TikTok and focus on photo sharing between friends. Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, said in a video tweet Tuesday that the platform will continue to support photos but that he believes the app will be filled with more videos over time. Instagram users can add accounts from friends and family to their "Favorites" and Instagram will show their posts at the top of the feed, he said.

Mosseri told Casey Newton, founder and editor of Platformer, in an interview Thursday that he's glad the company took the risk but plans to take a "big step back and regroup."  

"For the new feed designs, people are frustrated and the usage data isn't great," he told Newton. "So there I think that we need to take a big step back, regroup, and figure out how we want to move forward."

On Wednesday, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed some of the user criticism after the company reported its first-ever revenue drop. The company, he said, is still focused on helping people connect with friends and family but social media users are discovering interesting content in their feeds and then messaging that content to friends. 

"This creates this flywheel of discovery and then social connection and inspiring people to create more content themselves," he said. 

More than 15% of content in a user's Instagram feed is recommended by its artificial intelligence from people, groups and accounts they don't follow, Zuckerberg said. But the move toward recommending more content from people user's don't follow also comes with safety concerns. TikTok, for example, has been criticized for showing users content that could harm their mental health including eating disorder videos, an issue that Instagram is also grappling with.

This isn't the first time Instagram has walked back testing of new products or features. In 2021, the company paused the development of a kids version of the app after mounting criticism from lawmakers and advocacy groups.